Friday, June 26, 2015

Introduction to Qigong Part 2: Applications and Styles.

Now that we understand what qigong and qi actually are we can begin to look at the various applications and styles of qigong.

There are three primary reasons people practise qigong; medical, health, and to enhance martial arts training.

Medical qigong is one of the four main branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with the focus on the practitioner helping their patient to correct imbalances and energy blockages through regulation of their qi. This enables the body to strengthen and regulate the internal organs, the nervous system and the immune system, relieve pain, regulate hormones, and strengthen and release deep-seated emotions and stress. (Click here for more on medical qigong.)

Martial qigong was most likely developed after the monks of the Shaolin Temple began practising the early forms of qigong attributed to Bodhidharma (Da Mo), the Yi Jin Jing (Muscle Tendon Changing Classic) and Xi Sui Jing (Marrow Cleansing Classic), were developed. Through the practise of these qigong forms the monks found that not only could they improve their health, they could increase the power of their martial art techniques. Since the origination of these two early qigong forms, many martial arts styles have developed their own qigong sets and many martial styles have been developed on qigong theory. (Click here for more on medical and martial qigong.)

Using qigong as a form of exercise for health and longevity is probably the most popular of the applications of qigong. The coupling of slow movements matched to natural breathing patterns allows for the practitioner to become totally engaged in the present moment which makes qigong a sort of moving meditation. This allows qigong to become an excellent form of holistic exercise developing the mind, body, and spirit.

There are thousands of styles of qigong exercise practised worldwide. Some of the styles I have been exposed to or practised are:
  • Zhan Zhuang Qigong
  • Little Nine Heaven Qigong Form
  • Chi Lel Qigong
  • Lamas Qigong
  • Dayan (Wild Goose) Qigong
  • Tai Chi Qigong 13 Form
  • Tai Chi Qigong Shibashi 18 Form
  • Baduanjin (Eight Pieces of Brocade)
  • Yi Jin Jing (Muscle Tendon Changing Classic)
  • Xi Sui Jing (Marrow Cleansing Classic)
  • Yi Jin Xi Sui Jing (Muscle Tendon Changing / Marrow Cleansing Classic)
  • Tai Gong By The Sea
  • Yin Yang Tai Gong

My Shifu, Master Shi Deru, teaching his Tai Gong form to his students of the Shaolin Institute at our annual Qi Retreat in 2012. (Photo by Tom Kreutzer)
The author practicing standing meditation. (Photo by Ben Kretz)
Shifu Shi Deru connecting with Universal qi! (Photo by Tom Kreutzer)
What is the right style for you? Choose what application you are most attracted to. If you are interested in martial arts or are currently practising a martial art and want to add qigong, find a martial arts teacher who teaches qigong. The Yi Jin Jing is a great addition to martial arts practice. If your interest is in medical qigong due to a chronic illness or disease, you will need to find a specialist in Traditional Chinese Medicine to help you. If you are strictly interested in improving your health, a simple qigong form such as the Baduanjin would be a good choice. Do some research and ask around. Try a few different teachers until you find one that resonates well with you.

Regardless of the style of qigong you select to practise, all qigong styles share three common attributes:
  1. Regulation of the posture of relaxation.
  2. Regulation of the mind.
  3. Regulation of the breathing.
Personally, to compliment my Yang and Chen style Taiji practice, I have to come to favor the Yi Jin Jing and Xi Sui Jing forms, as well as the Yi Jin Xi Sui Jing. I also find a lot of benefit in the Baduanjin and have learned a couple different ways to practise that form as well. I am very fortunate to have found a teacher of authentic Shaolin martial arts to learn from. My teacher (or Shifu), Shi Deru, is a 31st generation master from the Shaolin Temple in China and was a direct disciple of the last real spiritual Abbot of the temple, grandmaster Shi Suxi.
The author practicing walking qigong in his favorite environment! (Photo by Tom Kreutzer)
I think it is more important to find a form, learn to perform it well, and practise it consistently then to learn many different forms that you never master nor practise with any regularity.

"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." - Bruce Lee

In part 3 of this blog series we will look at how to set up our qigong practice as well as other methods that enhance qigong.

In Health,


Friday, June 19, 2015

Introduction to Qigong Part 1: What is Qigong?

Qigong (pronounced ‘chee gong’) is a form of exercise that is practiced by millions of people worldwide.

What is qi? Before we define qigong we need to define qi. Qi (sometimes spelled chi), according to Chinese philosophy, is the circulating life energy thought to be inherent in all things. Qigong can literally be translated to “energy work”.

It originated over 4,000 years ago in China with it’s roots in the Chinese meditative practice of xing qi (circulating qi) and the gymnastic breathing exercise of tao yin (guiding and pulling).

Many recent studies have shown qigong to improve the quality of life in cancer patients, fight depression, improve balance, improve blood pressure, and improve overall health. Despite these studies many scientists claim it is still too early to make any definitive claims due to the lack of larger, more well-designed studies to substantiate these claims.

While there may not be enough evidence to convince many modern scientists, much of the research is substantiating what many highly qualified qigong teachers and practitioners have already known and discovered through their own practice; that qigong has a very positive effect on health.

At the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston a team of scientists and researchers studied 96 women undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer. They found a significant reduction in depression in women who took 5 weekly classes of qigong compared with the control group that didn’t take any classes. Among those who were depressed at the start of the trial, fatigue was lessened and overall quality of life improved. (Click here to read more about this study.)

Many people often confuse the practice of Taijiquan (or Tai Chi Chuan) with qigong. Taiji is an internal form of Kung Fu which incorporates mind-body principles into a martial art and exercise for health. In order for a practitioner to get the most out of their study of Taiji they need to have a very good understanding of qigong and know how to apply qigong principles to their martial art practice.

I sometimes think that when people pursue Taijiquan strictly for health benefits, what they are really after is qigong. Taiji takes many years of study and practice with a qualified teacher as the forms can be quite intricate and challenging to learn. There have been some simplified forms created to make Taiji practice more accessible, but to get the most out of Taiji it is best to approach it both as a martial art and health practice after learning the fundamentals of qigong.

On the other hand qigong can be very easy to learn and the student will begin to see the benefits much more quickly. If your goal is strictly health related without any interest in the martial arts, qigong will provide everything you need.

I hope you have enjoyed this introduction to qigong and in part two of this series we will look at the various applications and styles of the art.

In Health,